How to Reinstate Permanent Resident Status?

Author: Madan Ahluwalia

Legal permanent resident status is obtained through family-based, employment-based (including business) or few limited miscellaneous petitions such as investor visa or asylum-based status.

One of the requirements of having such status is that one will stay in the United States permanently. Short-term absences for business or personal reasons are accepted and expected. Short-term absence is generally an absence of six (6) months or less. However, long-term absences not only break the continuity of residence in the U. S. but also cast doubts on one's intention to maintain the permanent resident status and can result in two unintended consequences: 1. ineligibility for naturalization purposes, and 2. forfeiture of permanent residence status.

Therefore, if a permanent resident or green card holder wants to needs to stay away from the United States for long-term period, he or she must plan ahead to preserve the permanent resident status. In my experience, following types of people fall into such category: (1) Parents who are old and do not have any independent social ties, (2) New alien permanent residents who have children over 21 and whose such children could not immigrate to U. S. along with them, (3) New Permanent residents who are nearing retirement age and can lose retirement benefits, if they do not complete certain term at the employment. Of course, the list is not exhaustive.

One way to preserve permanent resident status is to apply for re-entry permit. Re-entry permit can be obtained for a period of two years and mostly one can obtain it two times without problem. In other words, you can essentially buy a time period of four years without jeopardizing your permanent resident status.

If a green card holder does not obtain re-entry permit before leaving the United States and stays out of United States for more than a year, such person can lose permanent resident status. Such situation can arise in the event of serious illness or protracted litigation or other personal family situations.

In the event of such situation, there are two ways; permanent resident status can be obtained again. One way is to get a family, employment or business based visa petition filed again and go through the same process (of obtaining permanent resident status) again. For example, if you obtained your permanent residence status through your U. S. citizen child, the child can sponsor you again. Second way is to apply for the returning resident status.

An application for returning resident status requires evidence of the following:

1. Applicant's continuing, unbroken ties to the United States,
2. That the stay outside the United States was truly beyond the applicant's control and
3. That the intent of the applicant was to always return to the United States.

Evidence may consist of continuous compliance with U.S. tax law, ownership of property and assets in the United States and maintenance of U.S. licenses and memberships. In other words, there has to be strong paper trail of intention to stay and/or return.

One has to show that:
1. He or she had the status of a lawful permanent resident at the time of departure from the United States
2. He or she departed from the United States with the intention of returning and has not abandoned this intention
3. He or she is returning to the United States from a temporary visit abroad and, if the stay abroad was protracted, this was caused by reasons beyond the alien's control and for which the alien was not responsible.

Such application is filed at the local U. S. Embassy and it is Embassy's discretion to then decide the matter based on the merits of the case.

So, with proper planning, resident permanent status can be saved. The key is to think it through and plan well.

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About the Author

Madan Ahluwalia is Managing Attorney of Ahluwalia Law Professional Corporation (ALPC) located in Belmont, California. ALPC focuses in Business Law, Immigration Law, and Estate Management. To read more articles by Madan Ahluwalia or to find out about upcoming web-based seminars, visit